Any seasoned woodworker will tell you that a table saw is the centerpiece of a proper woodworking shop. The question is: how do you find an option that strikes a perfect balance between the price and quality? That’s what we will try to answer in this article. Read on to find out what factors you have to consider to choose the best table saw for your woodworking shop. At the end of this guide, we will also review some of the most interesting table saw models to help you make an informed decision. Let’s go.
In a hurry? Below are our top picks for the best table saws for each type of table saw:
- Portable: DEWALT 10-Inch Table Saw, 16-Inch Rip Capacity (DW745)
- Jobsite: Bosch Power Tools 4100-10 Tablesaw – 10 inch Jobsite Table Saw with 25 Inch Cutting Capacity and Portable Folding Stand
- Contractor: SawStop CNS175-TGP36 1.75Hp Contractor Saw 36″ Prof T-Glide Fence SYS
- Hybrid: Shop Fox W1819 3 HP 10-Inch Table Saw with Riving Knife
- Cabinet: SawStop PCS31230-TGP252 3-HP Professional Cabinet Saw Assembly with 52-Inch Professional T-Glide Fence System, Rails and Extension Table
How To Choose The Right Table Saw?
First, you have to decide what type of table saw do you actually need. Namely, there are five types of table saws. They are different in their size, power, robustness and portability. Here’s a quick overview of each type of table saw.
Compact Table Saws
Compact table saws are lightweight and portable. They are easy to pick up and carry around. Unlike traditional table saws, compact saws don’t have a cabinet to support them. They are designed to be placed on a bench or an extra stand that can be purchased separately.
Compact saws are a good fit for contractors who move around building sites. A beginner hobbyist who is short on space in his home workshop will also find this type useful. Compact saws are generally designed for light-duty jobs. While it may be difficult to rip full-size pieces of wood on a compact saw, it will provide you with enough power to cut softwoods like cedar, pine or redwood.
Compact table saws are equipped with lightweight universal motors that can be loud and mediocre in performance. Rarely expect to find a good dust collection system on a compact saw. While portable saws are easy to carry around, they are not as stable as heavy stationary saws. A compact table saw may wobble if you try to cut large slabs of wood with it. These models make up for their disadvantages with a lower price tag, though.
Jobsite Table Saws
Jobsite table saws are often confused with contractor saws. The contractor saw is actually a lighter version of a stationary cabinet saw.
As its name implies, this saw is designed to be used on the job site. Jobsite saws are much like portable saws. The difference is that they come equipped with a collapsible scissor stand, often with attached wheels. This allows for easy transportation. When compared with benchtop saws, they have higher cutting capacity and accuracy. Jobsite saw is somewhat of a combination of a lightweight stationary saw and a benchtop saw. They are a good fit for those who need that extra stability, rip accuracy and power on the construction site.
This can also be the best table saw for a small shop. Jobsite saw’s affordability and higher ripping capacity makes it an ideal choice for an amateur woodworker. This is especially true for someone working in a garage, where space is a commodity.
Contractor table saw is the lightest of all stationary saws. Again, contractor saws should not be confused with jobsite saws. These machines are characterized by simple design. Of all stationary saws, they usually command the lowest price. Naturally, this makes it an appealing choice for beginners who need that extra stability and accuracy that a stationary table saw provides, but don’t have the budget to buy a higher tier table saw.
Appealing price tag and increased portability come with a downside, though. Compared to their higher shelf cousins, contractor saws are often equipped with less durable gearing, trunnions, and arbor assembly. This translates into less stability and more susceptibility to vibration. To address that, you may consider buying a contractor saw with trunnions, table and extension wings that are made of cast iron.
All factors considered, a contractors saw can be a great addition to a hobbyist’s woodworking shop due to it being more affordable than a full-fledged cabinet saw.
Cabinet Table Saws
Cabinet table saws are the kings of all table saws. These are heavy-duty pieces of equipment, with some of them weighing up to 600 pounds. They are designed to cut large pieces of material and hardwoods with ease. Cabinet saws have the highest cut capacity, stability, and durability of all table saws.
It is said that cabinet saws are built to outlast their owners. They are great for frequent and demanding use in workshops. They are a proper fit for a seasoned woodworker. Note that their high-performance 3-5 HP motors will usually require a 240-volt outlet.
What sets this piece of machinery apart from other saws is that they come equipped with highly reliable fence systems, more robust pulleys and bearings, flatter tables. Heavy, cast-iron parts will translate into greater stability and cuts that are accurate to a fraction of an inch.
Buying a cabinet table saw for a beginner’s workshop might be an overkill. They are more geared towards factories, serious amateurs, professional workshops and other professionals that demand top-notch performance. They also take up a lot of space.
Hybrid Table Saws
Essentially, hybrid table saws were designed to offer some of the best features of a cabinet saw without breaking your bank. Much like its cabinet cousin, hybrid table saw’s base is confined, with its belt-driven motor mounted on the inside.
What separates it from the contractor’s saw is that hybrids are equipped with sturdier arbor bearings, trunnions, and better gearing. Hybrid table saw’s trunnions are attached to the base. This allows for more precise alignment of the saw. While they are not as durable as cabinet saws, they make up for that with a lower price.
A hybrid table saw is one step above the contractors saw and a few steps below a cabinet saw. In general, hybrid saws offer enough durability and precision to be a great addition to a professionals’, as well as an amateurs’ woodshop. They also don’t cost an arm and a leg.
Features to consider when buying a Table Saw
The next thing to consider is the features that should come with the best table saws. You wouldn’t want to purchase a saw and later find out that it lacks some functionalities that you may need in the future.
When choosing the best table saw, look for cast iron tops and trunnions if you want extra stability. Also, see if you have the option to add cast iron extension wings to your table as they will give you less vibration. Heavier tables ensure better alignment and more stability.
On the other hand, if portability is what you are looking for, choose a table saw with an aluminum tabletop.
Safety is paramount when operating any kind of saw. Given the fact that table saws cause over 30 thousand injuries across the US annually, it is important to make sure that your new table saw includes these basic safety features:
Riving knife is a safety device that is used to keep you safe from a kickback. By not using a riving knife, you are putting yourself under significant risk. A riving knife doesn’t allow a wood kerf to close up behind the blade and pinch it while cutting. It also keeps a workpiece from pivoting into the saw’s rear teeth which may cause it to propel back at the operator with extremely dangerous force.
As per Underwriters Laboratories UL 987 Standard for Stationary and Fixed Power Tools, all table saws manufactured after 2008 must be equipped with a riving knife that rises and descends together with the blade.
A blade guard acts as a protection to keep your hands from touching the saw and to prevent the wood from falling onto a rotating blade. More advanced woodworkers often remove the blade guard as it can interfere with your vision and make it impossible to use a push block.
I wouldn’t suggest removing the blade guard for novice woodworkers given the fact that two-thirds of all table saw accidents occur without a blade guard attached.
Rip capacity refers to the distance between the blade and the fence on your table saw. How much ripping capacity do you actually need? It all comes down to what kind of projects you will be working on.
If you are a professional, like a framing contractor, you will probably want to look for a table with a minimum capacity of 24″ to the right. Such tables will allow you to cut large sheets of MDF or plywood.
A rip capacity of 20” or less should be enough for most basic jobs like trimming deck and fence boards. While the actual rip capacity can be increased by attaching broader extension wings, account for the default table’s capacity.
Soft start feature moderates the intensity of a motor startup. This offers more refined performance, less strain on your machine and decreases the chance of tripping a circuit breaker.
Variable speed control
Variable speed control allows your blade to maintain constant speed at variable loads. This feature is useful when working with wood that has knots in it, for example. As the blade encounters a knot, it’s spinning speed will remain constant. This helps avoid kickbacks and burns on your material.
A common theme that you will notice in table saw reviews is discussing the quality of the fence system. And rightfully so, since your fence will control the accuracy of your cuts. Check if the table saw’s fence system offers reliable parallel alignment with the blade. Also, look for table saws that are equipped with an aluminum fence. Unlike plastic, aluminum is more resilient, yet still lightweight.
Best Table Saw Reviews – Top Picks & Comparisons
Portable: DEWALT DW745
Weight: 48.5 lbs
Power: 3HP, 15 AMP
Bevel range: 0-45°
Rip capacity: 16-20″
Our nomination for the best compact table saw goes to DEWALT DW745. Weighing only 49 pounds, this little beast will give you great ripping power with its 3HP, 15 AMP motor.
What we like about this saw is that it comes equipped with a steel roll cage that offers protection from beating, which is a common occurrence on the construction site. This ensures higher durability when compared to saws with plastic bases. We also like the fact that it comes with a rack and pinion fence system. It gives that extra accuracy that can rarely be expected from a compact saw.
DEWALT DW745 comes with a dust collection system, but some clients report that it is somewhat inefficient. One buyer stated that only about 10% of all dust actually comes out.
Another aspect where this saw is lagging is its stock miter gauge. Many buyers say that it is quite lousy and needs to be replaced fairly quickly. However, this is not a big surprise since rarely does a table saw comes with a reliable stock miter gauge. Most often you will be better off with an aftermarket miter gauge.
Overall, we believe that this lightweight saw makes a great addition to contractors or hobbyist’s arsenal of power tools. This is also as close as one can get to having a powerful saw in a compact form. It is also a good fit for a garage woodworker as it is doesn’t take up much space and it’s easy to move around.
Jobsite: Bosch Power Tools 4100-10
Weight: 110 lbs (w/ stand)
Power: 4HP, 15 AMP
Bevel range: 0-45°
Rip capacity: 16-20″
Next up is our nomination for the best jobsite table saw, which goes to Bosch 4100-10. With 4HP, 15 AMP motor, this bad boy offers great ripping power. Enough to rip hardwood. Also, we think it is very convenient that this saw can operate with a 110-volt outlet.
This model weighs 110 lbs, which is 14.2 lbs lighter than it’s predecessor 4100-09. While 110 lbs don’t sound like portable, its Gravity-Rise wheeled stand gives optimum mobility on the building site.
We like that this saw features soft-start functionality. Anyone who has ever tripped a circuit breaker with a power tool will know what I mean. Bosch’s large cast aluminum top will give you 25 ” of cutting capacity, which is enough for typical job site tasks. As for a portable saw, many buyers also report that this model is relatively silent.
What are some of its disadvantages? Some users complain about the poor parallel alignment of the rip fence in relation to the blade right out of the box. Unfortunately, the owner’s manual is far from helpful in this regard. Adjusting the rip fence and the blade for parallel will be quite a tedious task.
Some users have also reported cases of its motor failing. But, it is hard to assess whether it’s the manufacturers’ fault or simply a result of poor maintenance by the user. I am more inclined to say that the latter is true due to the sheer volume of positive customer reviews.
Contractor: SawStop CNS175-TGP36
Weight: 225 lbs (table saw only); 335 lbs w/ 52″ fence systems
Bevel range: 0-45°
Rip capacity: 36″, can be configured up to 52″ w/ extension wings
When it comes to stationary saws, we believe that SawStop CNS175-TGP36 is the #1 contractor table saw out there. While this variant isn’t the most affordable out of all contractor saws on the market, its signature SawStop safety system will give you some peace of mind that you won’t get cut in case of an accident.
Safety isn’t its only schtick, though. Many people comment that they really enjoy how well it is put together. Buy once, cry once so to speak. People also like the fact that this table is fairly easy to assemble as SawStop provides very easy to follow instructions. You may want to invite a friend to help you out, though. The main assembly weighs 110 pounds and it has to be lifted out of the box and placed onto the base.
Buyers confirm that their T-Glide Fence System does operate smoothly and precisely.
It must be noted with its 1.75 HP motor, this may not be the best option if you are routinely ripping hardwoods or slabs that are thicker than 4/4. For someone who has taken his woodworking passion to a commercial level, you will probably be better off by opting for a motor with more horsepower.
Additionally, the safety break may be an issue if your wood is wet or very green as it can be conductive enough to activate the brake. Before ripping material like barnwood, make a test cut using the Bypass Mode to see if it won’t activate the brake. There’s a red light on the control box that will indicate conductivity.
One more thing: if you want to make this saw compatible with a 220-volt outlet, you will need additional components. We took the time to dig around in their manuals to find how you can do that. You will find information about this under this link on page 36, in case you want to know in advance.
Hybrid: Shop Fox W1819
Weight: 457 lbs
Bevel range: 0-45°
Rip capacity: 29-1/2″, 49” with extension wings
A well-styled machine. This hybrid saw impressed several users, many of whom commented on how well it is manufactured. Others were surprised how well the fence system and the blade were aligned right out of the box. The saw comes with massive cast iron trunnions, cast iron table, and wings, which offer great stability. It’s assembly also shouldn’t be a hassle as it comes with easy to follow instructions.
One buyer made a point about the user’s manual not stressing how important it is to de-grease the interior components. The sawdust will start to adhere to the greasy surface, which may cause issues with the blade height adjustment mechanism.
Overall, Shop Fox W1819 is a great option for weekend hobbyists and professionals alike. Shop Fox’s motor packs 3 horsepower, which should be more than enough for most woodworkers.
Cabinet: SawStop PCS31230-TGP252
Weight: 525 lbs
Bevel range: 0-45°
Rip capacity: 52″
Again, it should not come as a surprise but one of the main things that buyers really appreciate about SawStop is the safety system. You will notice that many of the users who convert to using SawStop equipment are people who have sustained serious injuries. It does come with a higher price tag than its counterparts. But, considering how much a split-second mistake might cost you, and I’m not just talking about the hospital bill… Paying a bit extra for a SawStop should give you some peace of mind.
Another thing that really stood out for many users is the high quality of its build. The table is perfectly flat, the fence and the blade are well adjusted right out of the box. People really like the fact that this saw comes with very well detailed instructions, with all hardware color-coded and details labeled.
It should be noted that SawStop Safety System works by detecting electrical conductivity. If your wood has any moisture in it, it might cause a false alarm and trip off the safety mechanism. Make sure you make a test cut with the Bypass Mode on before ripping wood. Otherwise, a replacement of the safety mechanism will set you back $150.
Also, another drawback of this saw is its price.
When it comes to table saws, there are plenty of different options on the market. To make the best decision, you have to answer three questions:
- What kind of work will you be doing?
- How much space do you have in your workshop?
- And most importantly: how big of a budget do you have?
Given the fact that there are five different types of table saw, we have selected the best machine for each type:
I hope this buyer’s guide helps you make an informed decision. Stay safe and happy woodworking!